Marketing helps boost scan volume at centers

December 25, 1991

Even without throughput-oriented high-field MRI systems, freestandingimaging centers still scan more patients per month than eitherhospitals or mobile users, based on a survey of 84 centers conductedby imaging services firm Alliance Imaging. About 65%

Even without throughput-oriented high-field MRI systems, freestandingimaging centers still scan more patients per month than eitherhospitals or mobile users, based on a survey of 84 centers conductedby imaging services firm Alliance Imaging.

About 65% of freestanding centers responding to the surveyperform more than 200 MRI exams monthly. Only about 30% of hospitalsand 10% of mobile centers reported comparable volume.

The survey was conducted by Terry Andrues, vice president ofthe customer support group for Alliance of La Palma, CA. His intentwas to determine the difference marketing and management can makein MRI center success. It was not restricted to Alliance customers,and while not scientific, the survey was randomized, he said.

Andrues found that exam volume at freestanding centers is tiedto management as well as referrals. For example, freestandingcenters responding to the survey have longer operating hours perday than either hospitals or mobile facilities.

In addition, freestanding MRI centers offer more services thanthe other two types. Facsimile reports, phone reports or handdelivery to physicians' offices are more commonly used by freestandingfacilities. Such centers are also more likely to send copies ofimages with reports, confirm appointments, and make special provisionsfor claustrophobic patients.

Further, freestanding centers are more likely to target referringphysicians with direct mail campaigns and to have dedicated marketingstaff on site to promote the center.

The primary caveat of the survey is that it did not measurethe influence of physician ownership in center referrals and volume.Although the topic would be a good one for study, Andrues saidhe balked at addressing it for fear of receiving fewer responsesfrom centers. A total of 150 surveys were mailed for the 84 responserate.

"In areas where physician ownership has proved to be abig factor in volume, such as Florida, you would probably haveto say that it is a significant influence on volume," hesaid. "But I saw the same sorts of numbers for freestandingimaging centers across the country."

This means one of two things, Andrues said.

"Either freestanding centers do well because they're betterrun centers, which is my hypothesis, or, everybody's joint-ventured,"he said. "It's difficult to filter through."

BRIEFLY NOTED:

  • Center operator TME of Houston will stick to its imagingservices knitting. The firm exited this month from a venture inpicture archiving and communications systems. TME sold its ImpaqPACS division to Megasource of Birmingham, MI.

Megasource provides computer software and consulting servicesto the health-care industry. The new parent will keep its PACSsubsidiary in Houston under the new name MSimpaq.

"We are specialists in a single area--outpatient diagnosticimaging--and we will maintain our focus on this fast-growing market,"said TME president and CEO Cherrill Farnsworth.

TME runs 21 MRI centers in nine states. The firm raised $22.5million through a partnership offering in October, with a goalof adding 15 new centers to the chain (SCAN 10/23/91).